Huffington Post reports: India ranks 132nd out of 152 countries on a new index that measures the commitment by a country towards reducing inequality. The index is composed of 21 data points with varying weights; including health and education, share of tax revenue in the GDP, share of tax exemptions, minimum wage and maternity benefits.
From The Hindu: An afforestation initiative led by naturalists and locals, with support from forest and revenue department officials, has resulted in the Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, shedding its barren, brown visage. Lalitha Sridhar reports on the decade-plus-long turnaround of a damaged fragile, semi-arid ecosystem by successfully harnessing scientific expertise and local knowledge.
From The Hindu: Straddling six states, the 1600-odd kilometre-long Western Ghats is home to an astonishing diversity of life and supports innumerable communities and cultures. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the remarkable 100-day ‘Save Western Ghats March’, a landmark event in Indian environmental activism, which became the model for numerous campaigns to follow.
From Daily O: Two important things stand out: lack of information at the grassroots level and the attitude of policymakers, and to some extent people too, towards dealing with floods. Assam’s information network has improved, but population explosion forces people to risk lives for a few weeks of floods by living at the river bank.
Down to Earth reports: Despite bumper production, volume of import of cereals like wheat and maize increased by 110 times between 2014 and 2017. Traders now find it cheaper to import from Australia than to procure locally. India’s already distressed farmers are the hardest hit by the fall in the prices caused by the rising imports.
Colin Todhunter writes in Countercurrents.org: A combination of debt, economic liberalisation, subsidised imports, rising input costs and a shift to cash crops (including GM-cotton) has caused massive financial distress to small farmers in India. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, could accelerate this process.
From The Indian Express: It’s a dark satire to tell a farmer that the Minimum Support Price (MSP), CPI and WPI changes reflect farmer incomes are doubling and farmer suicides are declining. The trigger for the recent farm agitation remains the depressed farm gate price compared to previous years —that’s what matters on the ground.
From Countercurrents.org: This article is about the struggle to save the rich, dense and old growth forests in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra by the Madia Gond adivasis residing in these forests. Communities like theirs don’t celebrate World Environment Day, but it is in their struggles that the ecological and cultural wellbeing of our country currently rests.
India’s Tribal communities are under extreme pressure, right from big dams and mines to violent insur gencies and militarisation engulfing their lands. In 25 years, will these communities cease to exist? Or, will they represent thriving, revitalised models of egalitarian sustainability that the rest of the world has come to recognise and is learning from?
Heera Bai reports: Across the Tribal Belt of Central India, indigenous communities are constantly being evicted from ancestral lands to make way for development projects, industry, tourism and government-sanctioned conservation initiatives. In the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Baiga community have faced a legacy of evictions that dates back more than 30 years.
From People’s Media: In January 2017, two people were killed when the police fired on villagers in Bhangar, in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district. They were protesting the forcible acquisition of their fertile agricultural land for a proposed powerg-rid substation. Read reports and watch a short film made on location, as the events unfolded.
Devinder Sharma writes: In the past 21 years, over 3.18 lakh farmers have committed suicide; that’s one farmer ending his life every 41 minutes. Every death on the farm infuriated the farmers, their families. But political leaders have always ignored the warning. Not realising that the day farmers wake up, Indian politics will change forever.
From Down To Earth: About 70 per cent of India’s livestock is owned by 67 per cent of the small and marginal farmers and the landless, who shifted to livestock in face of uncertain rain and dwindling income. New restrictions on cattle slaughter will severely cripple the livestock economy which is now bigger than crop economy.
Fifty-six years after the foundation stone for the Sardar-Sarovar dam on the Narmada was laid, the Gujarat government has got permission from the Centre to shut its gates. It will open the gates of misery for more than 100,000 people, whose houses and land are likely to get submerged. A Down To Earth ground report.
From Vikalp Sangam: Located in the village Vinchurni, in Maharashtra’s Satara district, the 100-acre Maganlal Gandhi Smrutivan was originally a rocky grassland, that has since been transformed into a fertile estate that now teems with various interdependent lives. Behind this makeover is the 89-year-old former ‘Bhoodan’ activist Babulal Gandhi, aka Babu Kaka, and his family.
R. Jagannathan, Editor, Swarajya Magazine, writes: It is time for a mea culpa on demonetisation. This writer has been largely positive on the medium-to-long-term benefits of notebandi, as opposed to its short-term downsides. Now, especially after the farmer agitations for loan waivers, I believe the negative side is larger than the positive. It has failed.
From People’s Archive of Rural India: From farmers being shot dead in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, to those across Maharashtra out on the streets, to those from Tamil Nadu on hunger strike in New Delhi not so long ago, this has been a season of agrarian discontent. Why is this happening, which way will it go?
A recent article by Tim Worstall on the Forbes website states that, in effect, India’s farmers should be allowed to go bust because that’s how economic development works. This response from Countercurrents.org traces the criminal role of neoliberal policies in undermining farmer’s independence and livelihoods to favour global agribusiness. The article has since gone viral.
This series of timely reports from Hindustan Times surveys the explosive situation in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, epicenter of the violent protests that left six farmers dead from police bullets. The lead article looks at the impact of demonetisation in creating the crisis, while another report examines the role of social media in organising farmers.
Why, please ask yourself, does the city get 24 hour electricity, schools, colleges, dispensaries, hospitals, roads, public transport, even cooking gas and the village either not at all or services that are a pale shadow of their urban selves? Why this inequality in allocation of resources, even though 68.84% of Indians live in rural areas?